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The Lake City boys' 4x400-meter relay team celebrates after coming in first place in the race. Jake Pfeifer / Republican Eagle

ALBERTVILLE, Minn. — Entering the Minnesota State High School League Class A track and field championship, Lake City and Zumbrota-Mazeppa had 12 combined chances to etch their names in state history. Lake City’s 4x400 boys’ relay team did just that with an incredible finish to edge past Annandale and win the state title. Although the 4x400 relay team stole the show, the Tigers and Cougars had plenty of other performances to be proud of by the end of the meet.

The Class A state championship was conducted over two days, with the 3,200-meter run actually held Thursday night. In that event, Z-M’s Natasha Sortland set the tone for the Cougars with a fourth-place finish. Not only did her time of 10 minutes, 56.25 seconds earn her a medal, it was also her best time of the season.

While Sortland was eight seconds faster than the fifth-place runner, she was only two seconds behind first-place Jade Rypkema of Nevis. 

Prior to Sortland’s run, it was Reese Anderson’s turn to try his hand at the 2-mile run. Anderson, of Lake City, completed the 3,200 in 10:30.18, which put him in 16th-place overall.

Friday was when the bulk of the state meet was conducted, however. Per the revamped meet layout, the boys competed in the morning and the girls went later in the afternoon. While Z-M didn’t have any boys in the state meet, Lake City competed in five events.

The Tigers got in on the action right off the bat too as the 4x800 relay team of Joe Kozlowski, Kris Ryan, Carson Matzke and Anderson took third place with a time of 8:14.60. The relay team had its best time of the season and was just five-hundredths of a second behind second-place Nova Classical Academy. Park Rapids was the event winner with a time of 8:12.86.

Next up for Lake City, Matthew DeMars tested his leaping ability in the long jump. It was another good result for the Tigers as DeMars finished in the top half of the field with a seventh-place jump of 20 feet, 5.25 inches. Joshua Finseth of Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton won the event with a jump of 21-03.25.

Midway through the day, Lake City sent its second relay team out on the track. Its 4x100 team of Jeremy Nguyen, Ryan, Carter Hagedorn and DeMars recorded the second seventh-place finish of the day with a time of 44.82 seconds. Ahead of them, five of the six schools posted their best times of the season with Minnehaha Academy claiming first place after being clocked at 43.51 seconds.

Kozlowski was next up with Lake City’s lone solo track event of the morning. His 800-meter run time of 2:08.19 was nearly nine seconds off his seed time, resulting in a 15th-place finish. He recovered quickly however, as the boys meet concluded their day with a state championship.

Lake City’s 4x400 relay team of Ryan, Kozlowski, Anderson and DeMars blistered through the field with a time of 3:27.43 — five seconds ahead of every team except Annandale. The Cardinals hung tight with the Tigers throughout the whole race, and it was only in the final stretch that DeMars pulled ahead for good to win the race by just four tenths of a second.

Sortland sisters finish in top 5

As the boys’ teams headed off the track, it was time for the girls to warm up and make their mark. While Lake City dominated the ratio of events in the morning, balanced returned in the evening as the Tigers competed in three events, whereas Z-M entered two.

For Lake City, it was all up to Ashley Veronen who competed in both hurdles races and the high jump. For Z-M, it was the Sortland sisters — Natasha and Katrina — stealing the spotlight.

Veronen kicked the afternoon off with a eighth-place finish in 100-meter hurdles. Although she finished exactly where she was seeded, Veronen did post her best time of the season, clocked at 15.77 seconds. Veronen’s day wasn’t done there however as she finished 14th in both the 300-meter hurdles and high jump. She completed the 300 hurdles in 49.12 seconds and eclipsed 14 feet, 10 inches in high jump.

Despite only having two state-qualifying events Friday, Z-M’s Sortland sisters made the most of it as both finished their races in the top five.

Katrina Sortland had the best shot at a state title with her second-place finish in the 800. Katrina led the pack for the majority of the race but in the final stretch, Grace Dietz of Canby/Minneota broke ahead to win by five tenths of a second. Katrina Sortland ended her race with a time of 2:17.87. Behind Katrina was Morgan Gehl of Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda in third place nearly three seconds back.

Natasha Sortland returned to the track after her fourth-place finish in the 3,200 the night before. With the 1,600 on deck on day two, Natasha had a near identical placement as she took fifth place out of 16 competitors. She was part of a group of five runners all within five seconds of each other. Natasha finished in 5:05.30, while Olivia Goebel of Albany was just ahead with a time of 5:05.08. Less than a second ahead of that duo was Laura Thompson of Fairmont. Grace Dietz won the race with a time of 5:00.45.

As a team, Z-M finished in a tie for 16th among girls teams, while earlier in the day the Lake City boys wound up in a tie for 12th with Pine Island.

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